RIT Student to Compete in World Finals of Microsoft Imagine Cup

Ziyan Zhou one of four students on North American team; Competition in Seoul, Korea

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Ziyan Zhou, a second-year computer science student at Rochester Institute of Technology, advances to the World Finals of Imagine Cup, sponsored by Microsoft Corp., to be held in Seoul, Korea, from Aug. 5-10.

Zhou, along with three other college students from the United States and Canada comprise the North American team that will compete in the software design category. Zhou and his teammates will go up against student teams from 55 other countries around the world. Zhou’s North American team was one of ten teams to visit Microsoft headquarters recently in Redmond, Wash., to share their software applications with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

Microsoft started the Imagine Cup competition in 2003 to encourage young people to apply their imagination, passion and creativity to create technology innovations, that can make a difference in the world today. The theme of this year’s competition is “Imagine a world where technology enables a better education for all.”

Zhou and his three teammates, called Team Omni, created a language-learning network.

“There were two key factors that led us to our idea,” says Zhou. “The first is how popular social networking Web sites are with millions of students, including our friends using them every day. We wanted to find a way to take the excitement surrounding these massive student communities and apply it to educational technology. The second key factor was the struggles students face when learning foreign languages. Meeting people and helping them with language is one of the most effective ways to learn a new language. Our team sees social networks as a natural solution for helping students learn and communicate.”

Zhou’s teammates are from Western Washington University, Texas A&M University and McGill University in Montreal. Zhou advanced to the World Finals after successfully competing at the regional and national levels following an online qualifying round.

There are nine categories of the Imagine Cup Finals including software design, embedded development, Web development, interface design, short films, and photography.

In the software design category, the first place winning team wins $25,000. The second place team wins $15,000 and the third place finishers earn $10,000.